Bard's Tale 03 - Miriel


Lips trembling, Tahna simply nodded. The warrior monk had an idea what was about to happen. Tia whispered in her ear, telling them where they were. A bitter chill ran down the monk's spine.

Without another word, the priestess walked back to the marked earth. Then, chanting in prayer as she went, she slowly paced out a large circle, blessing and consecrating the area as she moved. For close to an hour she worked, building the wards and barriers necessary to the task. Once the circle was completed, the area within the circle was fully illuminated, and Tia was covered by a nimbus of golden light. For long minutes, she paced within, she called the quarters, adding yet more wards and protections. When it appeared she was finished, all of them felt like there something settling into place.

Returning to the marker, the priestess began another spell.

"What was that?" Reison asked the two sisters.

Mindal shrugged. "Tahna?"

"The spell is called circle of judgment. Because the spell covers a much larger area than normal, Tia had to summon additional power to spell. While inside the circle, she cannot cast offensive magic, but on the other hand, no one mortal and even lesser planar beings cannot cross the barrier. It will even block a lot of magical energies as well."

Seeing the spell completed, a book with a disembodied hand appeared, hovering near the priestess, Tahna continued her explanation. She'd seen these spells used many times before, though it wasn't used at every crime scene she'd worked at. "That one she just finished is holy scribe. While she sees the past events, it records everything, including any supporting evidence, such as divinations used to describe what happened here. Because she's close to the dead, with Miriel being our sister-in-law, there's a chance she may even feel some of what happened as well."

Reison and Mindal both looked alarmed.

Tahna looked at them both somberly. "Think about it. You told us, Reison, that the trail led toward the capital of Tildor, then vanished."

"So I was told, yes," he confirmed.

"When a priestess answers a succor spell, they know where they are arriving. We are hundreds of kilometers southwest, beyond the borders patrolled by the wood elves. Someone went to a lot of trouble to make sure Miriel wasn't found."

* * * * *

Further away, hidden by trees and the night, Rena and Brigit watched the priestess work, and her anxious family keeping vigil a short distance away.

The fire goddess took a steadying breath. "Thank you. I was barely aware of Miriel when she lived, but I know her now. I... this is going to be difficult, isn't it?"

"If you wish, we can quit this place and return later, after it's over."

"No. The child endured this. This spell creates a link between them? She will endure a portion of what the girl suffered? She is a brave woman."

"Aside from her vows to protect the weak and helpless, she sees Miriel as part of her family."

Brigit nodded. "If your priestess can do this, I can, too."

"The link is muted, but it's enough to allow the enchanted scribe to record feelings and images with the observations. Let my arms comfort you." She slipped her arms around Brigit, embracing her from behind. Nuzzled her hair.

Relaxing against the taller woman, she asked, "What did Mannannan charge you to release her soul?"

"Nothing, for he never received her."

"What? How is that possible?"

"You will learn why soon enough. And so it begins."

* * * * *

The spell divine age revealed that the events relating to Miriel's death transpired over a twenty-eight day period. Tia cocked her head. A full lunar cycle, she thought. There must be some significance to that.

With the starting date in mind, she accessed the temporal spell, reveal the past. At first, it was simply a daylight scene of the forest about her. Then gasped as a planar gate open, and through it stepped a bald man bearing a cruel visage, pulling on a rope. Through the portal he dragged a bound and gagged young girl over the rough ground.

Miriel. Dirty, clothes torn, feet bare and bleeding. Eyes wide in fright. Her cries muted.

Tia swallowed. Oh, no. Twenty-eight days of torture and rape. Goddess, please give me strength.

Tia expected him to begin his assault right away, but instead he drew out a knife and began to cut into her and lick up the blood. Even in silence, she could see the girl's agony, then felt the echoes of pain pricking her own body. Revolted, she motioned her hand into a circle, over and over, and the scene sped up. Faster and faster, until he moved about in a blur. Miriel didn't move that often, but it didn't matter. Beside her, the enchanted scribe duly recorded the events. Tia suddenly felt pain rack her body, gasping at the sudden assault. Not piercingly, but like a pounding drum, bruising her all over, beating her again and again. And the ache often seared into her core.

Tia felt Miriel's helplessness and despair. Echoes of the girl's agony battered at the priestess, focused on her sensitive parts, the relief of pain's cessation, then its sharp return.

Grasping her pendant and drawing on its magic, the priestess focused on maintaining her control, and increased the pace of events being replayed. Faster and faster, until a day flickered by every ten minutes. Tia fell over, writhing on the ground, overwhelmed. The pain was muted, but soon every place on her body trembled in anguish.

All the while, the scribe beside her scribbled and recorded at an inhuman speed.

The sensations built and built, until they became too much. Throwing back her head, Tia screamed until the air ran out, inhaled, and screamed again. Screamed and wept until her voice became a hoarse croaking, pleading for an end to the torment.

It was just after dawn when the spell wound down. She had enough control to grasp the pendant again and draw upon the power to calm her spirit. Muscled ached from the prolonged tension, the core between her legs trembled from the hurt.

With fierce determination, Tia sat up, slowing down the speed of the replay to watch the final horrors. She knew Miriel was barely conscious at the murder itself. A great numbness filled the priestess, a relief compared to the hours before.

Worse was what followed. Even prepared somewhat beforehand, it was still shocking. He dismembered her body and peeled the flesh from the bones. Seeing him cook some of it caused Tia to roll over and vomit until her empty stomach could heave no longer, weeping until tears no longer came. She didn't have to see it to know what he did. Revulsion and horror battled with anger within her heart.

Even that wasn't the final blasphemy. Her face in the dirt, Tia watched the foul monster take from his pack and don a priest's robes. With each breath, her fury built, growing until it blazed searingly hot. He was a priest of Set, the Kemer god of storms and evil!

Using fell magic to dig the grave, this evil high priest bound Miriel's spirit to her bones, then cast them into the pit. Then he cursed her spirit to loneliness, misery, and unrest, and then tied her spirit the ground, so that the nearby trees and even the earth around her grave kept her spirit from diminishing into oblivion, and spiritwrack to prevent her escape.

For five years, the soul of the half-elven girl had been trapped in this cursed grave, enduring further spiritual assault upon her soul. Eventually, Miriel would succumb to the evil binding her there, to become a banshee, and one bound to House Whisper Wind.

Wiping the dirt from her face and spitting out the bile from her mouth, Tia sat up and prayed for strength, for herself and for Miriel. Back to basics, she thought. Prayer can give us purpose and also comfort. She recited aloud the first nine psalms, those known as the psalms of love. It helped.

Pulling herself up onto her feet, she breathed deeply of the crisp morning air, then cast lay of the land. All around her was a growing taint that slowly poisoned the surrounding area. The epicenter of this contamination was below her, emanating directly from Miriel's unshriven grave.

What Miriel had endured was abominable. But what that priest had done to her soul was truly demonic in its cruelty.

Tia lifted her arms, calling out her summons. "Blessed Earth Mother, I humbly beseech you to open up the earth and give us the bones of Miriel Whisper Wind, our sister. I ask You in the name of She who Your Daughter, please heed my plea. By Her will, so it is."

The earth before Tia began to ripple and shift, like waves on a shore. Stepping back from the affected area, the ground roiled and bubbled, like water rushing over rapids. Bone shards came to the surface, where they bounced and rolled about, until the area was covered in necrotic debris. Then the land stilled once again.

Standing beside her own bones, her bare feet in spectral chains, stood the shade of Miriel.

"Who disturbs my grave?" she hissed angrily. Snarling, she moved toward Tia, transforming Miriel with each step into a shadowy monster with large fangs and sharp talons.

Presenting her holy symbol, Tia drove Miriel's shade back, and she cast heavenly chains of binding, imprisoning the girl's spirit. Next, the priestess scried and found the diabolic runes causing the girl's torment. She cast remove curse four times, to end the loneliness, the misery, the unrest, then to break the bond between her and the land. The strength of the divine energy flowing through the priestess easily smote the fell castings, dispersing the energy harmlessly into the air.

Upon breaking the fourth curse, Miriel's shade immediately diminished, shrinking and fading until she was nearly transparent. No longer monstrous in appearance or temperament, Tia nodded in approval, and dismissed the magical binding.

Walking the boundary of the protective circle, she did the ritual consecrate earth, and even though her voice was barely a hoarse whisper, she worked persistently. Within the hour, the land and trees were healed and balance restored. Bark and leaf became visibly more vibrant, the light of the suns penetrated deeper, and even a few chattering birds ventured into the once-afflicted area.

Gathering the sheaves came next, and Miriel's bones reformed into the positions once held during her life. Curious, the shade passively looked from the bones on the ground and then to the priestess.

A priest could cast raise dead on someone deceased, but the length of time deceased greatly affected the spell's success. Tia was unable to raise anyone dead longer than a score of days.

To bring Miriel back to life, however, required more powerful magic. Only resurrection could restore Miriel to life. Tia was powerful enough to cast the spell, and she was prepared for that. But channeling such a powerful spell had a reciprocal physical cost. Casting the spell would bring Miriel back from the dead, at the cost of aging Tia by three years, leaving her in a weakened state for a full day.

This was for Reison, and for Miriel, too.

Taking a breath, Tia next withdrew her pocket mirror. She looked a mess. Her hair had come loose from its ponytail. Her eyes were red and shadowed by darkened circles from her lack of sleep. Dirt smudges and tear-stains covered her face. Still, before casting resurrection, she had an obligation to her baby. Being magically aged while pregnant could be disastrous, even fatal to both mother and child. Casting detect pregnancy, she peered anxiously into the mirror. There was no tell-tale shimmer around the eyes. Just a sad and worn woman staring back.

She wasn't pregnant.

The dream of the Dark Warrior visiting her flashed into her memory. Her goddess had known, and taken the burden from her.

Too exhausted to cry, she steeled herself to the task. Miriel needs me now.

Chanting aloud, her voice hoarse at first, it grew stronger as the spell began to take hold. The bones glowed a pale green that transmuted into gold. Dirt fell away and the bones themselves knitted and became whole. Scuttled together as they attached into one form. As the priestess continued channeling the divine magic, flesh appeared and rapidly covered the bones from head to toe in a shimmering, golden nimbus. After ten minutes of constant recitation, the necromantic spell completed. The supine corpse whole once again, Miriel's shade was suddenly was sucked into the body. The nimbus flared, then blinked out.

The next moment, there was a deep inhale, followed by a piercing shriek.

Hurrying over, Tia half-sat, half-collapsed by the naked girl. Touching her magic pendant and speaking grey elven, she commanded, "Be at peace, Miriel."

Lapsing into silence, the girl stared at her, her eyes uncomprehending. The priestess removed her tunic and covered Miriel's nakedness.

The spell heal mended Miriel's mind, and her blue eyes became lucid.

Her face frantic, Miriel cried out, "We must get away! We must hide! He'll hurt us!"

Before Miriel could flee, she pulled the girl down into her arms. "You're safe now. No one will hurt you. I won't let them."

Shivering, she looked at Tia's face, saw the compassion, and then buried her face into Tia's chest, shaking and sobbing. Tia whispered calm chaos and used the pendant again, and the girl quickly calmed to shuddering sniffles. The priestess then added restful sleep.

Beside them, the ever-present scribbling came to an abrupt halt, the holy scribe spell concluded. Two score pages bound together appeared on the ground next to Tia. Picking it up, she examined the cover page. Felt cold revulsion as she read the charges. Then read with exultation his name.


On the reverse side of the magically created cover paper was a perfect rendition of his face. And to her surprise, it included the city where he currently resided!

In satisfied exultation, Tia folded the missive and stuffed it into her wallet. Got you, you bastard!

Off to the side, at the edge of the invisible, protective barrier, Tia could see Reison pounding away. Beside him, and more restrained, were her two sisters, also looking at her anxiously. Her voice felt raw. Then she remembered that she'd been screaming for hours. Her body, too, felt bruised and battered.

The strain of the aging and the casting of many high-level spells had drained her considerably. As much as she knew she needed to stand up and end the circle, Tia found herself struggling to remain awake.

Just a moment's rest, she thought to herself. Just a moment...

She had just closed her eyes when she felt a pair of lips on her forehead. Followed by a rush of healing energy restoring her to full health. The absence of pain was welcomed, but still a shock.

Tia opened her eyes.

Squatting before her was the Dark Warrior, not in the dreams as she had often seen her, but really there, in a physical form! Beside her was a stunning red-head, and based the clothing and upon on the sheer power emanating from her, Tia had good idea who She was. The comparative religion scholar within her bounced with excitement at the fact that here were two goddesses from different pantheons, standing side by side in front of her. Healed, yet emotionally worn out, she settled on trying her best to be calm and respectful.

"Goddess, I am honored to serve you."

The ebony woman smiled. "I am pleased. Create a portal and take her home. Leave her brother and Mindal behind to explain things to their family. Miriel will need help to deal with her memories. I've sent a message to Dr. Theo, and she will arrive within a few days to offer her help. In the meantime, you and Tahna need to continue finish this quest."

The redhead made a subtle wave of her hands, and Tia found her tunic back on, and Miriel was clothed in a fancy dark-green dress, with a gold torc and a gem-encrusted armband. Tia's own skin tingled, as if she was freshly bathed.

Seeing Tia's look, Rena smiled. "Go on. Ask."

"I have heard you throughout my many years of service, generously answering my prayers. Sometimes even hearing your voice in my thoughts. Until last month, I had seen you all of three times, and never up close. Yet, since meeting Reison, you've been in my dreams several times now, and today we meet in the flesh. Is this a foreshadowing of how things will be? Should I expect to see you more often in our lives? Not that I am complaining at all. I just want to be prepared to honor you properly!"

The Dark Warrior chuckled. "I guess that's a matter of perspective, but no. I will leave you alone--"

Tia looked stricken.

"--to enjoy your time together, at least for several years. And there will be plenty to occupy your lives, so consider yourself forewarned." The relief on Tia's face was writ large. "You are my priestess, Tia. You and your sisters are often in my thoughts. When you pray or even just speak aloud to me in your thoughts, I will hear you. Just as I always have. For the moment, though, we will be with you in spirit when you travel to Malganna."

Brigit nodded. "Ye have my gratitude as well, máthair chríonna. I've removed the memories of her imprisonment underground. More I canna do."

Tia was overwhelmed. Brigit just called her 'wise mother.' Then, just as she thought of the child she'd lost, her goddess pulled from her gi a small vial and handed it to her.

"I said I would make it up to you. I think you'll know what to do with this. There are six doses. And yes, it's what you think it is."

Taking it her free hand, Tia looked at it in wonder. A crystal vial filled with the essence of Osh Mayan. Each drop was as potent as a resurrection spell, strong enough to give life to anyone, restoring them to life, fully healed and ready to act. A single drop taken by the living, however, had decidedly different effects. It bestowed increased charisma and temporarily guaranteed fertility, even if one were previously sterile, and filled the imbiber with an immediate, compelling urge to procreate. Fertility was one of the spheres of the water god. One needed to be careful before taking the dose; the urge to mate grew strong enough within minutes that if not responded to by a chosen partner, the recipient find the nearest member of the opposite sex to do the deed with. Sibling. Parent. Hated enemy.

Placing the magic vial carefully into her wallet, she looked up, only to find that both goddesses had vanished.

"Thank you," she whispered.

When she mentally dismissed the protective circle, there was a cry of alarm at its former edge. Looking over, she saw Reison and Mindal picking themselves up.

Tahna hurried over, reaching them in seconds. The monk looked over her sister, then to the sleeping girl in her arms. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, I'm much better now."

"You screamed for hours. It was the worst experience I've ever had, Tia. Please don't do that to us again. And... your face is glowing even. And you're... older. What happened to your baby?"

"Gone. I don't know when. It hurts my heart, but this... worked out for the best."

Reison and Mindal ran up, calling out, "Tia! Miriel!"

At her nod, Tahna blocked them from disturbing the sleeping girl.

"Shush! Both of you!" Tia admonished. "Miriel is resting. Tahna, please take her. I'm sorry, Reison, but she may or may not wish to be held by you, much less touched. It's not your doing or your fault, but if that's how she reacts, you need to respect it and not take it personally."

Once they were upright, Tia announced they were taking Miriel home to her parents, and that he and Mindal were going to remain behind to explain everything. Besides bringing back Miriel from the dead, his parents deserved to know other little things -- like getting married to three women, planning to have babies right away, and where they were moving to.

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